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CSI 75th Anniversary Q&A—Dean Bortz

By Peter Kray posted 07-11-2023 05:31 PM

Now in its 75th year, CSI continues to drive project delivery excellence in the architecture, engineering, construction, and owner (AECO) industry.
In a new set of interviews, we ask key stakeholders how they view the association, the industry, and the future of construction.
Here, CSI sits down with Dean M. Bortz, FCSI, CDT, CCPR, Professor and Program Coordinator, Construction Management, OSHA OTI Trainer for Construction and General Industry Design, Construction & Trades Department, Columbus State Community College.
Dean, as CSI celebrates its 75th Anniversary, what are some of the most impactful contributions you feel the association has made for the benefit of the AECO industry?
Before CSI started to establish some sense of order with organizational tools, especially MasterFormat, just imagine what it was like going to a project, and everything is in a different order. Not just the documents or drawings, but the agreements as well. When CSI started in 1948, there was a good half century track record of standard contract and instruction but the CSI founders understood that having time, court-tested familiar standard conditions which can be modified to match innovation was the future. When MasterFormat started being utilized, it allowed everyone to find the same kind of information in the same location. That is the most impactful contribution.
The other thing I think CSI has done historically better than any other organization in this industry, is that it crosses all disciplines, including architect, engineer, contractor, owner, and supplier. When you attend an event, or go to a lunch and learn, or a building tour, it gives you a chance to not only talk to like-minded folks in your particular discipline, but get better at understanding what everyone else on a project does, too.
We all have the same objective to turn a project into a success, making the owner’s vision come to life, complete the project on or under budget, on or ahead of schedule, safely, and provide a facility for beneficial use. The designer, estimator, project manager, engineer, surveyor and particularly skilled trades are all critical for a successful project.  None of us can exist in a silo or vacuum. I think formatting is the tangible impact of CSI. The intangible impact is the crosses-discipline community we enjoy.
What first attracted you to a career in the AECO industry, and also to membership in CSI?
I was interested because I grew up a family where my dad was a product rep and I went to my first CSI meeting in junior high school. I just always enjoyed it, the challenge, the variety, and the constant learning. Plus the professionalism, collegiality, and collaboration. It especially helps with what I do now as an instructor for construction management at Columbus State.
Something about being a member of CSI is that there is competition in the marketplace, either in design, among product reps, contracts, or whatever. Yet when the time came to talk about issues that affected all of us—such as liability and safety—everyone got together to set down standards to try to improve the industry as a whole. I enjoy the challenge of  quality competition. That's what first attracted me, and I have been part of CSI on and off for 50 years.
You’ve made a career introducing young professionals to the opportunities in this industry—why is this such an important path for them to consider, and such an important message for you to share?
I think the nature of industry stories we can all relate to is something we all have something in common. I don't care if you’re doing part-time labor out of high school or retiring Friday after 50 years as an architect or contractor, the information we’re all sharing is that this is indeed a profession. Our average age is 29 in our department or programs. Folks are balancing family, work, or sometimes other stuff. But all of us here are practitioners and can bring a perspective that can’t be brought by a theorist. We come from our respective fields and are all able to relate things that you can't get out of a book. Because the people we related to coming up shared that knowledge with us, and now it’s our turn to pass it on to the next folks. We keep letting each generation know that with their gifts and talents they have the opportunity to do anything they want. So that's why it's so important for me to to share this for the next generation professionals, and it is such a joy to watch them develop and grow. 
You’ve also been very clear about the importance of earning a CDT—or any advanced certification—to each student’s success. What is it about the CDT in particular that can make such an impact on an individual’s AECO career?
The data, as of September 2022, shows that students who have earned the CDT average a starting pay bump of $11,500. So there's a practical pocketbook issue right there. It shows the industry our students and graduates have a better than the average bear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each party in a project, from scope and program development, through design, development, schematics, procurement, the construction phase, and on into operations, management, maintenance, tools, and understanding of documents and terminology—basically, it’s who’s doing what, when with what documentation and as a result, are better prepared to start or re-start a career.
These credentials have value and with an interdisciplinary group like CSI, it has great value whether you’re building homes or working on skyscrapers. Whether you’re a designer, engineer, contractor, owner, or supplier, we have helped produce developing professionals working on all these roles. Each one has said the CDT has helped them better understand their role and the roles of the project participants they work with. It encourages the understanding that none of us can do all of it by ourselves.
What does being a member of CSI, and contributing to the rich history of this association, mean to you?
Because of the nature and history of what CSI has, I think this anniversary is a golden opportunity to build upon what we’ve already accomplished. Being elevated to Fellowship was humbling and an honor. But I like to look at recognition not for what I have done, but what I am going to do next.  I see in many CSI members that it’s a constant “pay it forward thing” because the rewards are priceless to watch. Like seeing somebody here struggle all term long, then finally the light goes on, and you know they are better prepared for the future. They know they can do the work, and earn the credits, and maybe get a raise or promotion because their supervisor understood what they accomplished as well.
That’s the priceless aspect of having been a part of a group like this, being able to continue to move forward and be able to educate, enthuse, and encourage people. We grow, develop and find our talents, gifts, direction, meaning, whatever it may be, then work on our career.  CSI has helped me do that over the years and the organization’s mission is to assist current and future generations of professionals develop new tools and sharpen old ones. I have met and worked with many members over the years, and l cannot wait to see what happens next.